Cusp

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Lisa and I started knitting these socks together back in March, when I was in the mood for bright emerald green because of St. Patrick’s Day — but the colorway is actually called “Christmas Green,” so I guess it’s fitting that I finally got around to finishing them in the holiday season. The yarn is Cascade Heritage, which retails at about $11 for a 400+ yard skein and is an excellent sock yarn for the price, soft and stretchy, with a wide color palette of true solids good for showing off lacework. It was also the yarn called for by the pattern, and since the price was so right I figured I’d go for it.

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The pattern is Cusp by Cookie A. Lisa and I selected it since we both have copies of Knit.Sock.Love. that we wanted to get our money’s worth from. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have some pattern books that I’ve knit literally nothing from — I buy them when they have stuff I’m interested in, and/or when I want to support a particular designer’s work, but when you have an 800-item Ravelry queue like I do, it can take awhile to get around to everything!

This pattern isn’t especially difficult, but like a lot of Cookie’s more architectural designs there are a lot of things to keep track of at once, and there are a few transitional moments where things can potentially get a little confusing. Lisa had to start over once, and I had to do significant ripping on the second sock when I forgot to stop decreasing for the gusset and the foot got stupidly narrow. But Knit.Sock.Love. is full of genius diagrams to help you understand the construction of the sock and the way your various stitch patterns fit together, and the finished socks are quite lovely! I also think they’re faster to knit than an allover-patterned sock would be.

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I’ve fallen behind in my blogging again —  I did finish that mystery KAL I was working on, though not quite by the Halloween deadline, but my pile of essays to grade has kept me away from the blog. I have a bit of a grading respite between now and the end of the semester, so I’ll try to get in an FO post for that mystery shawl, as well as a process-post about what I’m working on these days! See you again soon.

Iron Maiden

IMG_5733Something about this piece really attracted comments from strangers when I was working on it. I brought it on my most recent trip to visit my family in New Jersey, which meant knitting on two planes and also in the park once with my parents, and every time I had it out in public somebody would come over and tell me how gorgeous it was! Some people commented on the pattern — the hypnotic stripes were easy to knit and are very visually pleasing. The pattern is Iron Maiden by Maiden Brooklyn, a designer I recently discovered with a lot of great shawl patterns.

IMG_5702Other people commented on the yarn, which is indeed lovely. It’s from Alisha Goes Around, an independent dyer who I believe is local to Texas — I picked up this yarn when Pat and I were living in Austin last summer. I don’t think she’s selling this particular yarn base anymore, though: this yarn is  called “75/25 Falkland + Nylon Fingering,” and it looks like Alisha is now going for much more poetic yarn names (and that she doesn’t sell this particular blend of fibers anymore). It’s very sturdy, but not at all scratchy — it would have been great for socks, but this lovely dark blue-purple color needed to be somewhere other than my feet.

IMG_5744This was a quick, easy knit — I never even got a chance to blog it when it was in progress. My only problem is with the bindoff — either I executed it incorrectly (very possible) or it’s not actually stretchy enough to allow for the edge to be pulled out into points like the sample is. I don’t have a problem with the smooth, non-pointy edging, but I sort of wish I’d ignored the instructions and just done my standard stretchy lace bindoff. (It’s the one from Laminaria, though I generally don’t double-strand it.) On the whole, though, I’m very happy with this!

Zeldaphant

IMG_5688We photographed a new shawl today, but looking at the pictures in my camera I remembered that I never blogged about this little guy, who I finished knitting a few weeks ago. So the shawl post will come later in the week; for now: Zeldaphant!

I call him that because I knit him for my friends’ little girl’s first birthday, and said little girl is named Zelda. The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda, and it’s as good as everybody says it is. It’s one of the most popular toy patterns on Ravelry, and while I don’t have a huge amount of experience with knitting toys, I’d definitely say this was the clearest, most sensible, least annoying pattern for a toy I’ve knit so far. The key to getting the trunk to curl for me was to stuff the whole head pretty densely, because you need the trunk to be very densely stuffed so you can pose it, and if the head isn’t packed very tightly then the trunk stuffing will migrate into the head.

The yarn I used was Caron Simply Soft from my stash — it’s the softest, cuddliest acrylic I’ve found so far, and since this is a gift for a one-year-old I wanted it to be as thoroughly machine-washable as possible. I figure if Zelda likes it, this toy is likely to be both dragged through dirt AND chewed on, and ain’t no mama of a one-year-old got time to lovingly handwash her toys. Like many Ravelers, I decided to make the feet in a contrasting color. And I am INSANELY PROUD of how pretty my embroidered french-knot eyes came out. Check it:

IMG_5687I actually suck at embroidery; my secret weapon was this tutorial. It’s steps 5 and 6 that really set this apart from other french-knot instructions on the internet; pushing the knot down to the fabric before pushing the needle through is the key to making it not come out crappy.

I’ve been meaning to do more WIP-blogging — I feel like a lot of finished objects (like this one) crop up on this blog without you having even seen them on the needles. I also think that more WIP blogging will allow me to talk a little more about knitting as a process, and to share some of my techniques and approaches in more detail. I’m eventually going to try to do more WIP-only posts, but I actually have a backlog of FOs to show you at the moment, because the start of the school year has crowded out most other things in my life for the past few weeks. In addition to this guy and the shawl I’m going to show you later this week, I have another finished shawl that I’m going to put on the blocking board today!

About two weeks ago, I took this picture of my WIPs and recently-finished-but-unblocked pieces. They’re arranged in chronological order of start date, oldest at the left. I call it “Red Shift”:

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It’s kind of amazing: all summer all I wanted to knit was blues, and then sometime in September red seems to have taken over my brain. The yarn on the right is a sweater quantity of Madelinetosh Sport in the Tart colorway that I picked up at Imagiknit in San Francisco on a weekend I was up there recently. I felt like it was a stroke of brilliance on my part to buy a sweater’s worth of Madelinetosh in person, because the skeins are so variable and there are no dye lots. Imagiknit is maybe my favorite LYS in the universe, and it manifested its wonderfulness in the salesperson who went in the back and got all 20ish skeins of Tart that they had in stock, and went through them carefully with me helping me to pick a matched set.

At this point everything on the blue side of this photo is finished, except for the color-block garter-stitch blanket in the middle there (which is going to take about a thousand years), and you’ll see the other projects soon. All the red is still underway, but it’s all been temporarily shelved in favor of two more urgent projects that are neither blue nor red:

IMG_5751They photograph poorly when they’re unblocked like this, because the ribbed gussets make them curl up all weirdly, but these are the Cusp socks that I started as a mini-KAL with my friend Lisa back in April. We knit on them for a few weeks and then stopped, because she’d made some mistakes and had to start over and wasn’t feeling up to actually doing that, which I understood. Then we decided to pick them up again in September and try to finish them in time for the October mystery KAL we both wanted to do, and we both failed at that goal — but as you can see, I’ve come pretty darn close. I figure I can probably finish these at some point in October if I finish any of the mystery KAL clues early.

That KAL is the Boo Knits “Morticia” Halloween Mystery KAL. Boo Knits is the author of Rainshine, which I knit recently, as well as many other dramatic, interesting shawl patterns, so I decided I trusted her to come up with something worthy of Morticia Addams. I also decided to go whole-hog with the “goth” theme:

IMG_5755(I don’t want to show you an in-progress pic in case any of you are doing the KAL and might have the “mystery” spoiled.) It looks kinda blue or purple here, but that yarn is in fact black — Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Lace in the “Shadow” colorway. I really like the “Raven Clan” colorways, and thought long and hard about getting a blue-black or a green-black, but ultimately decided to go for a true black so I could wear it with red and blue equally well. The beads are 6mm Miyuki cube beads from Fusion Beads, which I had a lovely experience with & which doesn’t have minimum order sizes, unlike some other online bead vendors. This KAL is still in its first week — it’s not too late to join me!

Happy Birthday to Me

IMG_5679Yes, yes. Technically my birthday was in April. But in April, I took advantage of my birthday-month discount at my local yarn store, and I bought this lovely skein of Zen Yarn Garden Serenity Silk + in the “Mystic Ocean” colorway. And then in June I started knitting it into a Laminaria shawl, following Xavi’s mods on Ravelry to leave out the star chart. And now that this project is finished, it’s like it’s my birthday all over again!

IMG_5658My favoritest shade of deep blue-green, such a beautiful lace pattern, and a dramatic and generously-sized shawl. Yes, yes, and yes! Can you even believe how fabulous the above shot is? Pat snapped the picture just as I was twirling around, so we caught the shawl in motion.

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I no longer remember exactly how many repeats of the blossom chart I knit, but in order to get as much shawl as possible out of my skein I religiously followed the yarn-ratio charts that the designer (Elizabeth Freeman) brilliantly supplies on Ravelry (pretending I’d knit one repeat of the star chart, since there’s no entry for zero). I knit a Laminaria once before and I knew that the edging does eat up a lot of yarn, but I was skeptical when the charts told me to start the edging with something like 40% of my yarn left. But Elizabeth is a genius at whose feet I worship, so I did what her charts told me — while secretly making plans to match up the leftover yarn I’d surely have with some of the other remnants in my stash. But she was right, of course: when I got to the last few rows, I even started to sweat, thinking I might not have enough to finish! I ended up having to bind off on the final purl row rather than purling that row and binding off on the knit side. Never again will I doubt you, Elizabeth, and please write us another of your gorgeous shawl patterns soon.

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Emelie

Image 1We’ve covered the chuppah, so here is the sweater I knit for Amanda’s wedding. To be fair, I started it without having the wedding specifically in mind, but the general idea of this sweater was “neutral-colored thing to wear over summer dresses in the evening,” so I quickly realized it would work well for this occasion and motored to finish it in time. The pattern is Emelie and the yarn is Anne Hanson’s Breakfast Blend Fingering in “Oatmeal.” This was a case where the yarn was the inspiration for the project — Anne brought this yarn out in (I think) the early spring and I was desperate to knit with it, and it occurred to me that the “Oatmeal” colorway would be perfect for “neutral-colored thing to wear over summer dresses in the evening.” So I looked through my Ravelry queue, and Emelie seemed to fit the bill. I loved how customizable the pattern is, and the trim, tailored look of the whole thing.

ImageFoolishly we didn’t get any pictures of the sweater at the gorgeous wedding location, so you’ll have to settle for these beer-wielding reception pictures. I chose to knit the 11″ version of this sweater, going for a cropped look — it works great with dresses like this, but I have a little regret that I didn’t knit the 13″ length, which would have been more versatile. I’m going to have to decide how I feel about visible swaths of t-shirted midriff. But a bonus of knitting it at this length is that my whole third skein of yarn is untouched! So I think I’m going to knit a pair of Anne’s delicious Waffle Creams socks with the leftovers.

Aaand I’ll leave you with a grainy-but-amusing after-dark shot. ‘Til next time!

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Water Music

IMG_0529The only “action shots” I have are iPhone pictures for now, but this is the chuppah that I knitted for my friend Amanda’s wedding. I was thrilled to be asked to do it, and immediately started scouring the internet for patterns.  I was only able to find one real chuppah pattern out there, and I wasn’t thrilled with it, so I initially planned to knit a cabled blanket pattern. I consulted with the bride about colors, and decided to knit it in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Fjord Heather. It was going to look lovely, but I was starting to have doubts because it was also going to be very heavy. Then this spring Kirsten Kapur released a square shawl pattern that I instantly knew would be perfect for a chuppah: Water Music. I loved the openwork, and thought it would be lovely in the sun — and it was! I love how you can see the dappled shadows on Amanda in this shot.

I hoped that just knitting this pattern in heavier yarn on larger needles would result in a large enough chuppah, but near the end I could tell that I’d need to add more rows, so I did another repeat or two of Chart 3 and I also added some more garter stitch to the border. I was aiming for 5′ x 5′, and after an aggressive blocking the finished product came out to just shy of that, which turned out to work fine. Here it is pinned out on my floor:

IMG_5627Isn’t this gorgeous? I was so happy with how it came out. But my apartment is small enough that this required furniture-moving! I cleverly finished this up right before Pat and I took a week-long trip to the east coast, so I pinned it out the night before we left and unpinned it when we got back — so we didn’t actually have to live with awkwardly-positioned furniture.

The ceremony was lovely, and I was so honored to be able to contribute to it! I also knit a sweater to wear to the wedding, but I’ll save that for a separate post. Until next time!

Vintage/Modern

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My parents are cleaning out their house in vague preparations to downsize and move sometime in the next year or two, and one of the things my mother unearthed was this great 1975 pattern book for Brunswick yarn, along with an unfinished crochet afghan she’d been making from this book in the 70s and a whole bunch of yarn that had been earmarked for the project. There are some great pictures in this thing! The top photo is my favorite; it’s from the back cover.

Here’s the front cover. I guess it’s the same model, but it’s not quite as amusing as her sassy cigarette pose:

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Upon reflection, though, very little about this picture makes sense. “Oh, it’s just little old me, in my glamorous makeup, wrapped up in this giant afghan, crouching on the ground outside.” Maybe she came over for a fancy barbecue (if that’s a thing) and drastically underdressed for the weather?

But the real prize for absurdity has to go to this shot:

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My mom calls this a “James Bond girl shot,” and I think she’s onto something. “Dahlink, vhy don’t you step into the kitchen for a drink and some snuggles?” The pattern for that dress is in this book, too, and interestingly the only sizes for the clothing in this booklet are 12, 14, and 16 (with bust measurements of this dress coming in at 41″, 43″, and 45″). They probably intend for some positive ease, but I think that speaks volumes about how size standards have changed over the years. (And about how knitting patterns have become more user friendly, presented in a wider array of sizes!)

Here’s one more gem for you:

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Oh yes, you can knit her all-yellow outfit if you choose!

I elected not to finish my mom’s crochet afghan, for several reasons. (1) I’m not much of a crocheter. Even though it was a simple shell pattern and would have been within my abilities, it would have been tough to work on in front of the TV, where is where I do 95% of my knitting. (2) She’d given up on it because her gauge had gotten wonky, so there would be some significant fixing I’d have to do. (3) There were eleventy billion ends to weave in already, and the thing wasn’t even half done. And (4) there was enough of her yarn leftover for me to just knit a blanket myself that would be both more fun for me to work on and more functional as an end product — shell stitch produces a fabric full of holes.

I decided to just freestyle a garter stitch blanket, in part because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to determine how much yarn I actually had, since the labels on this yarn list its weight in ounces but bizarrely not its yardage. After I’d embarked on this plan, though, I thought to look the yarn up on Ravelry and lo and behold, there it is despite its being long-discontinued: Brunswick Germantown. I have the older 4-ounce skeins, and I could have calculated my yardage and followed a pattern, but I’ve been having so darn much fun doing this that I see no reason to stop:

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I’m using the Mason-Dixon Moderne Baby Blanket as inspiration, but I’m not really following the pattern at all — just deciding for myself what colors will look best where. The main insight that pattern gave me was the idea of using intarsia to break up rows into multiple color blocks, which you can see that I’m doing on the top right now and already did on the right hand side. I’d never actually done intarsia before, but it turns out to be stupidly easy and basically exactly like fair-isle knitting except you don’t carry the strand along with you; you just knit in blocks and twist the strands at the color changes. I expect that the hardest things about it are following complicated patterns that call for it and keeping your tension even at the transition points, but here the “pattern” is dirt simple and the transitions are easily managed. I’m having so much fun with this thing that I’m finding it really tough to put down, despite the fact that it’s growing into a sizable wool blanket and it’s the middle of August! Of course, it’s also been a shockingly mild summer here in southern California, and the hottest months are probably ahead of us — September and October are usually the worst. So this blanket probably won’t be finished until the fall, but it’ll be a fun thing to pick up now and then until the cooler weather hits!